(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

MEN OF MATHEMATICS
oughly human manner. The Franco-Prussian war caused him
to forego his usual summer trip in 1870, and he stayed in Berlin,
lecturing on elliptic functions. Owing to the war his class had
dwindled to only twenty instead of the fifty who heard the
lectures two years before. Since the autumn of 1869 Sonja
Kowalewski, then a dazzling young woman of nineteen, had
been studying elliptic functions under Leo Konigsberger (born
1837) at the University of Heidelberg, where she had also
followed the lectures on physics by Kirehhoff and Helmholtz
and had met Bunsen the famous chemist under rather amusing
circumstances - to be related presently. Konigsberger, one of
Weierstrass' first pupils, was a first-rate publicity agent for his
master* Sonja caught her teacher's enthusiasm and resolved to
go direct to the master himself for inspiration and enlighten-
ment.
The status of unmarried women students in the 1870's was
somewhat anomalous. To forestall gossip, Sonja at the age of
eighteen contracted what was to have been a nominal marriage,
left her husband in Russia, and set out for Germany. Her one
indiscretion in her dealings with Weierstrass was her neglect to
inform him at the beginning that she was married.
Having decided to learn from the master himself, Sonja took
her courage in her hands and called on Weierstrass in Berlin.
She was twenty, very earnest, very eager, and very determined;
he was fifty-five, vividly grateful for the lift Gudermann had
given Tiiyn toward becoming a mathematician by taln^g him on
as a pupil, and sympathetically understanding of the ambitions
of young people. To hide her trepidation Sonja wore a large and
floppy hat, fcso that Weierstrass saw nothing of those marvellous
«yes whose eloquence, when she wished it, none could resist.*
Some two or three years later, on a visit to Heidelberg,
Weierstrass learned from Bunsen - a crabbed bachelor - that
Sonja was 'a dangerous woman*, Weierstrass enjoyed his
iriend's terror hugely, as Bunsen at the time-was unaware that
Sonja had been receiving frequent private lessons from Weier-
strass for over two years.
Poor Btinsen based his estimate of Sonja on bitter personal
experience. He had proclaimed for years that no woman, and
408